Survival and Spatial Ecology of the Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina, on the Upper Mississippi River

R. Neal Paisley, John F. Wetzel, John S. Nelson, Cindy Stetzer, Mark G. Hamernick, Benjamin P. Anderson


We studied the survival and spatial ecology of adult Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) on Pool 8 of the Upper Mississippi River (UMR) during 1997-2001. We captured 597 Snapping Turtles 745 times (333 adult males; 238 adult females; and 26 juveniles) at two study sites; Goose Island, Wisconsin and Lawrence Lake, Minnesota. From this sample, we radio-marked 104 Snapping Turtles of legal harvest size 128 times. Annual survival ranged from 0.857 to 1.000 and averaged 0.944 with Goose Island and Lawrence Lake estimates pooled. Legal harvest was the most important cause of mortality and accounted for 57% of documented deaths. Annual home range size using the Poly-Buff (PB) method averaged 11.13 ha and ranged from 2.20 ha to 37.18 ha. Emergent and rooted-floating aquatic vegetation were used disproportionally more than their availability and 72% of all locations collected during the active period occurred within these habitat types. Overall, radio-marked Snapping Turtles selected hibernacula in the following habitat categories; marshes (38%), main/side channels (28%), backwater sloughs and small ponds (14%), spring areas (10%), small tributary streams (7%), and tertiary channels (3%). Developing conservative, consistent harvest regulations among the states that border the UMR should be a management priority.


Snapping Turtle; Chelydra serpentina; habitat use; hibernacula; home range; radio-telemetry; survival; Upper Mississippi River

Full Text:



Volumes that are more than six years old are freely available courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.


Questions or problems with the website? Contact William Halliday (info -at- canadianfieldnaturalist -dot- ca).